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Who can diagnose autism?

Mental health professionals with expertise in autism spectrum disorder can diagnose the condition. These professionals include psychologists, pediatricians, neurologists, and neuropsychologists. A pediatrician may refer a family to a specialist in ASD for an evaluation after early signs such as avoiding eye contact, not showing interest in other people, and being distressed by changes to the daily routine are observed. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a genetic component but it cannot be diagnosed from biological markers so an evaluation is based primarily on the individual’s history and behaviours.

How is autism diagnosed?

An evaluation for autism will focus on patient interviews; observations of behaviour; tests of cognitive and language abilities; medical tests to rule out other conditions; and, often, interviews with parents, caregivers, and/or teachers. Many children can be reliably diagnosed with autism by age 2, and early diagnosis is essential for beginning therapies and services that can support healthy development. ASD can also be diagnosed in adults.

What is the most common treatment for autism?

Autism is often treated with a combination of approaches, but the most common therapeutic technique is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which focuses on developing social, communication, and learning abilities and motor dexterity, as well as everyday skills like hygiene and grooming. A therapist trained in ABA, who may work in a school or clinic, or come to a child’s home, will tailor a program to the patient’s individual level of need with the overall goal of helping their patients become as independent as possible given their position on the autism spectrum.

Can autism be overcome with treatment?

There is no cure for autism, but treatments and therapies can help children develop stronger social and communication skills, limit repetitive behaviours, and begin to function more effectively in their daily lives. Autism is a spectrum disorder, and so while some people with the condition may experience mild discomfort in social settings, others may live with intellectual disability or experience seizures or violent outbursts. Therapy can aid people at different points on the spectrum, and sometimes dramatically benefit young children, but progress often varies depending on the individual’s symptoms.